Dental health and diabetes 15 August 2023 Dental health is an essential part of wellbeing, particularly for individuals living with diabetes. Among various population groups, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities face unique challenges in maintaining oral health, which can be compounded by the presence of diabetes. Diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects how the body processes glucose, the preferred fuel source of the brain and body. Sustained high blood glucose levels can weaken blood vessel health, blood flow, and the immune system, compromising oral health. Individuals living with diabetes are more prone to infections, including gum disease (periodontitis). Gum disease, in turn, can make diabetes harder to manage, creating a cyclic relationship between the two health conditions. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities often encounter barriers that impact their oral health; limited access to timely dental care being a primary concern. Factors such as geographical isolation, socioeconomic disparities, cultural safety concerns, and other factors can contribute to reduced access to preventive and curative dental services. This can greatly increase the risk of oral health issues among individuals living with diabetes. Cultural factors play a significant role in oral health practices. Collaborative efforts are key to ensuring that oral health education is culturally sensitive and tailored to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Promoting the importance of regular brushing, flossing, and visiting a dentist can be achieved through community engagement, workshops, and informational materials that resonate with the cultural values of the community. Engaging community leaders and healthcare providers in oral health initiatives can greatly improve dental care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with diabetes. Mobile dental clinics and telehealth services can bridge the gap in access to care, especially for those living in remote areas. By bringing dental care to the community, these interventions can make oral health services more accessible and convenient. Integrated healthcare models that combine diabetes and dental care, can lead to better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Collaborative efforts between Aboriginal Health Workers and Practitioners, diabetes educators and oral health professionals can result in comprehensive care plans that address both conditions. This integrated approach can lead to improved diabetes management and better oral health outcomes. Access to knowledge and tools are vital for empowering sustainable oral health care. Workshops, seminars, and one-on-one education sessions can help raise awareness about the connection between diabetes and dental health. By understanding the impact of diabetes on oral health, and vice versa, individuals can make informed decisions and adopt oral health promoting behaviours where possible. Addressing the unique challenges faced by communities and promoting access to affordable culturally safe and sensitive oral health education and services, health care and related teams can work towards improving both oral health and diabetes outcomes. Collaborative efforts involving healthcare providers, community leaders, and the person, and their family, living with diabetes are key to fostering positive change and reducing the burden of diabetes related dental complications for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. For more information on diabetes education for the health workforce and or people living with or at risk of diabetes, please click here for the Diabetes Australia website or call the NDSS Helpline on 1800 637 700 to speak with a health professional.